UK government pledges $141.7 million to help vulnerable countries deal with Omicron
The Hill reported according to Reuters that the British government on Wednesday pledged 105 million pounds — which is equivalent to roughly $141.7 million — in emergency aid to vulnerable countries, particularly in Africa, to help them deal with the spread of the highly transmissible omicron COVID-19 variant.
British foreign minister Liz Truss said, according to Reuters: "The UK is providing vital assistance to help tackle the spread of new variants around the world." "This is key to securing our freedom and ending this pandemic once and for all."
The funds will go toward transmission reduction efforts, increased testing and expanded oxygen supplies, per the wire service.
Truss said: "The UK is helping other countries most in need. No one is safe until everyone is safe."
The omicron variant, which has a significantly higher degree of mutations than previous strains of COVID-19, was first detected in South Africa in late November and quickly spread to neighboring countries in the region.
The British Foreign Office added that this pledge comes just as it was confirmed that the U.K. followed through on its goal of delivering 30 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the rest of the world by the end of 2021, Reuters reported. The country has vowed to donate 100 million doses.
This pledge also comes as wealthier nations like the U.K. have received criticism for not doing enough to help poorer countries combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The World Health Organization's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has blamed wealthier countries for contributing to the rise of the omicron variant by hoarding vaccines, which allowed for a continued spread of infections and resulted in a more mutations occurring.
In an op-ed published in USA Today last week, Tedros blamed "narrow nationalism and vaccine hoarding" for creating the "ideal conditions for the emergence of the omicron variant."
"If we end inequity, we end the pandemic," he wrote. "As we enter the third year of this pandemic, I’m confident that this will be the year we end it – but only if we do it together."